First Energy Comes Up Short Again, PUCO Doesn't Care... Again

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For the second year in a row, First Energy has failed to derive enough of its power from solar energy produced within the state. Also for a second straight year: The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is cool with First Energy blowing off its demands. The regulator recently announced it won’t seek the fine First Energy owes.

“The fine would have gone into an energy fund, and that would have been $1.5 million that could have developed solar projects in the First Energy service area,” says Tara Santarelli, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which tried to fight the regulator’s inaction. “PUCO staff even filed arguments against it,” she says.

The law requires energy companies to produce their own renewable energy or buy credits from a company that does. When First Energy failed to do either in 2009, the PUCO said the company wouldn’t be fined as long as it made good the following year. By 2010, First Energy again said it couldn’t find enough credits to snap up.

But it’s a problem faced by no other public utility company in Ohio, says Santarelli. Dayton Power and Light built its own solar farm. American Electric Power partnered with a developer to build what will be the largest solar project on this side of the country, complete with 600 new manufacturing and construction jobs.

In its latest ruling, the PUCO demands that First Energy make up its ever-growing shortfall by next year, adding that they really mean it this time.

“That’s what they said before,” says Santarelli.

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